Tuesday, January 24, 2012

At least three historic narratives out there on the Thurston County public power debate

Chris Stearn's piece on why we should consider a public power utility included references to at least three historic episodes when we did consider it before.

It first came about with the formation of our own public utility district (PUD) in 1938. The long period of court battles that ensued failed to bring the PUD into the electrical business.

Several more attempts were made up to the early 1960's when one of two supportive commissioners died suddenly, leaving the other hopelessly deadlocked with the third commissioner. Future elected commissioners later overturned the entire effort.
During our PUD's first 23 years the issue went before the Federal Court and involved several other county PUDs' attempt to take over Puget Power as well as another private utility. The last eruption 50 years ago even sparked a highly polarized dramatic debate in the state Capitol and led to the removal of the pro-public power and long time Speaker of the House, John L. O'Brien by defections from within his own Democratic Party.
The third episode sounds very familiar to me, I'm pretty sure it was referenced in chapter 5 of the recent Slade Gorton biography. I'm hoping that "People, politics & public power" has some answers.

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